Never promise what you can’t deliver…

… a brief monologue on the ways that can backfire on you

 

Besides being a means of offering my excuses for missing deadline once again, this short list enumerates various ways promising something can get you into trouble.

  1.  Most obvious and pertinent: Never put in writing the date your book will be available unless it is on its way to the printer. And not even then. Those of you who are alert will  note the ‘update’ of launch info for FLYING PURPLE  PEOPLE SEATER. I won’t bother you with excuses; there are some. It will be out soon.
  2. Never promise you will  never do something. A certain editor I know vowed she would never go so far as to cross borders to see a performance she admired; guess where she will be next month? (correct if you said not in her home country)
  3. Never promise to house-sit or pet-sit when you don’t really know your own plans. (Was that the weekend you scheduled for minor surgery on Friday and were told you’ll be out of it from the pain meds for three days?)
  4. Never promise you will be there for the birth of a child (except your own, and then not if it is your spouse who is delivering). Do I really need to mention that babies are unpredictable?
  5. Never promise payback –  whether it’s a favor, a visit, a loan, or revenge. Life is also  unpredictable.
  6. Never promise to write an article from a certain slant. You  never know when you will discover information – even during an interview with the subject – that will change everything you’re going to write.
  7. Never promise a friend or a family member that you will name a character after them or, worse, ‘put them in your book’.
  8. Following from #7 is, never promise (or brag) that you’re going to kill off your mother-in-law (or anyone real in your life) in your book. — We all do it; just don’t say so.
  9. Never put so many people or things in the plot of your novel that you can’t keep track of them. You’ll have things like boats with gunmen on them vanishing  into thin air when they would have been in a position to turn the tide of battle, but you can’t have them there because that’s not how the fight turns out. (yes, that was a thing)
  10. And never, never, as the saying goes, put a gun on a mantelpiece in a scene unless someone is going to get shot.

That’s a saying that was taught to me by my screenwriting son. It refers to economy and purpose in writing.  When you put an object or person into a scene, there’s a reason they are there. There has to be, particularly in any short writing, but even in novels.

Mysteries may be notorious for red herrings and misdirection, but that’s not what you’re doing if you are introducing stuff into scenes and not doing something with them.  Ie, there is no reason for a gun on the mantelpiece in a young woman’s apartment, unless there it is going to be used. Maybe it’s self-defense, because she feels stalked. Maybe it’s  self-defense, because she feels under siege by law enforcement. Maybe it’s self-defense, because she feels stalked and under siege by an ex-boyfriend. Maybe it just goes off and the bullet strikes her baby. Maybe she’s going to sell it, turn it in, clean it, or use it on the damn cat, but that gun needs to be used somehow. Or it needs to not be  there.

Even 600-page novels have a finite number of ideas to convey, in a finite number of words. If you can’t deliver follow-up why something is on the page, if its being there doesn’t serve a purpose later on, don’t promise the reader that it does. Take it out.

Now I’ll go finish my book. No, that was not a promise, but I will.

Thoughts….

REMAINDER (my newly-published novel) has as its background the firsremainderFrtcvrt year of war following the events of 9/11. It was the year when we tried to assimilate the shock, realized we were in a whole new world, and attempted to pull  together to cope, even as emotions tore at the fringes to rend us apart. It is one of the reasons, I think, that agents and publishers didn’t quite know what to do with it and so rejected it.

But I was intrigued by what we were going through, even as we went through it. We are a large family, and all the kids were in some form of school in 2001. We had a lot of holding and talking and loving and strategizing to do. At the same time, as any parent – particularly a mom – knows, despite everything, when the sun rises the next day (and it does), the laundry will need to be done, groceries will need to be bought, the car will need to be fixed, and (eventually) we will all need to go to school or to work. After all, they say a return to normalcy is the best way to get past a traumatic event. Maybe so, but there must be time for grief and adjustment, as well.

The people of Remainder have made their initial adjustments, and now they are learning that life does go on, and we must engage in it and cope with it. For people farther away from ground zero than New York or Washington, DC, the war could seem remote. Everyone had to decide for themselves how they regarded the war. Everyone had to decide how to incorporate the surreal with the real as they took up their live again apace.

REMAINDER is about what it’s like to face personal pain and local community trial while still reeling from blows dealt by a world gone mad. It’s about the path each of us finds through the mess we have to conquer in our own lives.

runyouthsil

 

I started writing REMAINDER some time ago, and I left it alone for a while before the final edits. I was surprised to find I’d done a little foreshadowing of reality as I was writing. While I missed where it landed our country, I picked up on the the distrust, the suspicions, the diminishing of others in our midst. I failed to see how far it would take us. Maybe just as well, because I don’t know that I wanted to write that book. But my hope is that we will come back together to be a different, a better people. That is something the people in Remainder could show us how to do.

 

Omy, omy, Oh My!

It’s getting close and I’m running late, but I may make it anyway.

Meantime, here’s the blurb from the back cover of Remainder:

“We expect the Wilson Touch.”


Wilson Parker has a reputation at Bedlowe Developers. He’s Aaron Bedlowe’s right-hand man for property acquisition. And Aaron wants property. His financial empire rests on his planned communities, and it’s time to place a jewel in the crown of his most recent venture. Aaron’s next target is Remainder, Tennessee, a rural community south of Nashville. And he’s charged Wilson with the task of getting the land he needs.

Parker’s already been in touch with a few people eager to make a buck selling land to the flashy company. One in particular, Ray Boone,has not only offered up his own property but is more than happy to help them find more. Things look good.

But maybe Parker should have spoken with someone besides Ray Boone.

Lyle Cummins, for one – de facto mayor of the unincorporated hamlet his grand-daddy founded. Or Ella Mae Knapp – retired teacher and government employee who understands far more about the world she lives in than many reckon. Or even Marty Jenkins – the wayward country singer/songwriter who enjoys raising his girls in this obscure little place.

If only Parker better understood what he was taking on when he headed down Highway 70…

…then it might not come down to a race
between him and the son of a dying man.

 

pinetree2 copytrunkGlyph

OMG, OMG, OMG!

But now, now,  here comes the rah-rah band, pumping up the editor, bringing buckets of midnight oil, and lots and lots of caffeine.  We may make it yet, folks!

What’s Your Inspiration?

It’s a question writers often get, and many don’t know how to answer. Reasonably so, because sometimes we aren’t so much inspired as driven towards writing about particular subjects.

In  this case, however, my inspiration is simple. I’ve always loved the mystery genre, but it wasn’t until I discovered antique boats through my husband and his family that I knew what kind of world I wanted to place my mysteries in (at least some of them.) The boats are beautiful, with deep histories that are sometimes violent. The wood gleams to draw the eye, and they look so natural upon the water.

Book #3 in the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat romantic mystery series has further inspiration in the boat owned by a friend my mother-in-law made at the Annual Antique Boat Show held at Clayton, New York  , now into its 50th-plus year itself. Walter Predmore, Jr. and his wife Aggie made friends with Nea, who was the village librarian and liked to walk the docks with her dog. That long-lived friendship resulted in our getting to know Walt and Aggie as well, and provided us with standing invitations to ride aboard their boat, the Roscommon, whenever we were in Clayton at the same time as them. Today, some 40 years or so later, Walt still owns the Roscommon. He  told me recently that last year, with its extra rain, was the first time in nearly the whole time he’s owned it that the boat didn’t make it into the water. Wooden boats need a lot of attention, and his wonderful Chris Craft cruiser refuses to permanently recover from some of the wood problems it had even when Walt bought her.

Here is the Roscommon, captured by a local paper as it sails in the boat parade as part of the Annual Antique Boat Show years ago. It’s possible to see my husband in the back of the boat (barely), as the photo was actually from a couple years before it appeared.

Boat Parade Roscommon 1991

And here is a trial image that may (or may not) be used as the cover image for the upcoming  book #3, FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER. Walt was kind enough to grant us permission to work with an old photo of the boat to create the cover.

RoscommonFramed copy

The Sonny is the boat Dorsey Wegman sets off to retrieve from Bateauville for her friend and physician, Mackenzie Wilder. But Dorsey phones Mackenzie, and soon they are involved  in trying to track down who was where when, and who might have murdered whom. Against the backdrop of the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands between Canada and upstate New York, drama both personal and historical plays out, changing the courses of many lives in the process.

I’ll post an excerpt from each of the Mackenzie Wilder books soon, including from this book, even preceding publication.

If you have an antique or vintage boat, let me know,  maybe share a photo. We’re always looking for cover possibilities, and we love any excuse to look at wooden boats.

Many thanks to Walt for the rides on the Roscommon, and for allowing us to use her as our model as well.